Today was not a “photo day”. Normally driving along the coast from Northern California to Central Oregon could take a week if I stopped at every gorgeous photo op, of which there is no shortage in the Pacific Northwest. However, being Oregon in April, it rained. Hard. So hard that water could be seen dripping into the car through the cracks between the window and the door frame. It was not a day to be outside with expensive camera equipment.
By the time we had hit Coos Bay in the late afternoon, the rain had finally let up, although we were beginning to lose what little light was filtering through the dark clouds. We hadn’t stopped for anything except food all day, so this was beginning to look like our last chance to wander around and shoot anything.
From the highway, I could see an industrial complex and a long-neglected rail yard. When we stopped, I grabbed my camera with the lens I had on it (a 28-70L) and started wandering, leaving my backpack with all of my other lenses in the car. I wandered relatively far from the car without taking very many photos … the light was bad, and what looked interesting from the road turned out to be pretty dull of a subject. I wasn’t “feeling it”, if you get my drift. I deliberated getting a telephoto from the car so I could shoot things across the river, but knew that if I’d made the walk all the way back I wouldn’t want to keep wandering around.
I decided to force myself to come up with at least ONE good photo before I could leave, and without changing lenses. As is often the case as a professional photographer, if I’m given something to shoot, it doesn’t matter if I’m “feeling it” or not. I have to come up with something to give to the client, and I have to make it look good.
After a few minutes of looking for a subject and daydreaming about what this railyard would have been like in it’s heyday and how long it had been since it had seen any trains, I took a look at the rust on the rails for any forensic clues to their wear. All of a sudden, it clicked. The patterns and the textures in the rust on the wet steel rails looked really cool. The soaked ground and soft dim light from the sky worked perfectly, instead of against me as they’d been doing all day. Finding interesting compositions became immediately easy, and I spent fifteen minutes pointing the camera straight down.